Starmer reveals 'worry' for family if he enters No 10 as Sunak says he can understand public 'frustrations'

Sir Keir Starmer has revealed the thing he fears the most about becoming prime minister is the impact it will have on his children.

Speaking to Beth Rigby during Sky News' Battle For Number 10 in Grimsby, the Labour leader said it was "not the big decisions" he feared the most but the effect his job will have on his teenage children.

He said his children - a boy aged nearly 16 and a girl aged 13 - were at "difficult ages" and it would have been easier if they were younger or older.

Meanwhile, Rishi Sunak - who also underwent questioning by Rigby - defended his record in Number 10 after he was quizzed about "broken promises" he made in January 2023 when he became prime minister.

The prime minister was specifically asked about the tax burden, NHS waiting lists and immigration - which he admitted was "too high".

He said he could understand people's "frustrations" but argued the country has "been through two once-in-a-century shocks" - the first the COVID pandemic and the second Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

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"I appreciate people want to see positive change, but you don't get any change unless you've got a plan and you're prepared to do bold things," he argued.

The prime minister also said he is "incredibly excited" for his daughters to do national service in response to a question from William, a student from Grimsby. "I think it will be transformative for our country", he said.

And on migration, he was challenged about how he thought Brexit voters (in Grimsby 70% opted to leave the EU) - felt upon learning that the total net migration figure for the last three years was 1.9 million people.

He admitted the numbers were "too high" but insisted he had begun to bring them down since becoming prime minister.

Asked why anyone should believe what he says given that David Cameron and Theresa May both promised to slash migration, he said: "I completely understand people's cynicism about this," before adding that numbers were now down 10% and the number of visas issued this year was also down by a quarter.

'The thing that keeps me up at night is my children'

Sir Keir, who the polls predict will be the country's next prime minister, said he "relished" the chance he may be given to change the country but that he feared for his teenage children.

"These are really difficult ages," he said. "My only fear really is the impact it's going to have on them."

He said the reason they had not appeared publicly or in a photo shoot with him was to protect them and to ensure they have their "own lives".

"I don't fear the big decisions, in fact, I relish the chance to change our country," he told Rigby.

"My only fear... the only thing that keeps me up at night is worrying about my children."

'I want to do things differently'

Sir Keir, who spoke before Mr Sunak took to the stage, also sought to distinguish himself from previous Labour leaders by saying he did not want to reach for the "tax lever" to sort out the country's finances.

He said his "central mission was to grow the economy" and that he wanted to "do things differently".

Despite persistent questioning over his tax plans, Sir Keir said there would be "no need" to raise taxes on "working people" in the party's manifesto that will be published on Thursday.

"I accept that previous Labour leaders have sort of pulled the tax lever every single time and driven up spending," Sir Keir continued.

"The manifesto tomorrow will be a manifesto, a plan for wealth creation.

"Now, you might not hear a Labour leader say that very often, but for me, that is the most important thing."

On whether there would be "tax rises of any kind" in the next parliament, Sir Keir repeated: "No tax rises in the plans in our manifesto, no tax rises for working people - that's income tax, national insurance and VAT."

Turning to the audience, Rigby interjected: "I'll just decode that for you guys, because when a politician says 'no plans' - it does mean 'I might'."

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Awkward moments

After taking questions from Rigby, Sir Keir faced the audience who asked him about his plans to tackle child poverty, housing and the NHS.

He was also asked by one audience member whether he had changed since leading the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to resemble a "political robot".

After an awkward pause, Sir Keir replied: "I've had this constant theme in my life of trying to serve the public. That's why I took the decision to go into politics."

Mr Sunak also faced laughter and boos from the audience when challenged about the five pledges he made after he replaced Boris Johnson as prime minister.

He faced laughter when he said inflation "was always meant to come down over time" and the audience expressed frustration when he blamed the lack of progress on cutting NHS waiting lists - which currently stand at 7.54 million - on industrial action.

And asked if he could provide the audience with any personal information that "make them like you a bit more again", he replied: "People seem to think I have a very kind of healthy lifestyle and I go to the gym and session about my fasting, but I actually have an appalling diet because I eat an enormous amount of sugar, and I'm very unhealthy in that regard."